Research platforms ForNaLab
The research platforms of ForNaLab include:
Most research activities in the Aelmoeseneie forest are concentrated in a marked scientific zone of 1.83 ha. This zone comprises two forest types: an oak-beech type (Quercus robur-Fagus sylvatica) on acid soil with a thick humus layer and a sparse herb layer, and an ash type (Fraxinus excelsior) characterized by fast nutrient cycling, a thin to absent humus layer and a diverse herb layer.
The scientific zone contains a Level I plot, a Level II plot, and a measuring tower. The Level I and Level II plots are part of the International Co-operative Program on the assessment and monitoring of air pollution effects on forests (ICP-plots, UN/ECE).
Besides the long-term monitoring of the ICP program, several short-term projects and MSc theses, of both ForNaLab and the Laboratory of Plant Ecology, have focused on the scientific zone. For example, (1) the spatial variability of throughfall water and (2) canopy exchange processes have been measured in detail. An overview of all studies is available in Dutch.
In the scientific zone, a 35 m high meteorological tower was set up in 1993. The tower allows the measurement of several meteorological parameters (precipitation, wind velocity, wind direction, net radiation, PAR, temperature, …) at five different height levels within and above the forest canopy (7, 14, 21, 28, 35 m). The measuring tower is located between an oak, beech and ash tree, at the border between the two forest types in the scientific zone.
To evaluate the impact of increasing tree diversity on ecosystem functioning, a highly innovative large-scale forest biodiversity experiment has been established. FORBIO is a Belgian research project, focusing on the assessment of the effects of tree species diversity on FORest BIOdiversity and ecosystem functioning. Within the FORBIO framework, a review about the scientific and practical knowledge on this topic has been made and a unique large-scale experiment has been established.
The research project is a partnership of different Belgian research groups and the outcomes will play a key role in sustainable forest management worldwide.
On three different experimental sites, plots with synthetic communities of single species and mixtures with two up to four tree species were planted. In this way, the relationships between tree species diversity and various aspects of ecosystem functioning can be evaluated in experimental plots that have developed under the same abiotic circumstances. The sites are located in Gedinne (Wallonia, planted in spring 2010), Hechtel-Eksel (Flanders, planted December 2012) and Zedelgem (Flanders, planted in autumn 2009 and spring 2010).
The Zedelgem site in autumn 2012 (photo: Jan den Ouden):
FORBIO is part of TreeDivNet, a unique global experimental platform for biodiversity and ecosystem research in forests. See: http://www.treedivnet.ugent.be.
More detailed information on the FORBIO sites can be found at http://forbio.biodiversity.be.